Adagio tea fandom blend

Beer Butter loose tea from Adagio

It was during a private conversation on Slack about how much to spend on a tea infuser that it occurred to me what I believe is simple about brewing tea is not obvious to beginners.

So what do you need to brew tea?

First, loose tea. Yes, you can choose it by smell or flavor.

Second, a tea infuser.

Third, a teaspoon. Yep, a measured teaspoon.

Fourth, hot but not boiling, water.

I’ve written extensively about different kinds of teas but this article might be a good place to start.

For tea infusers? Nothing fancy is needed! Amazon could deliver this one (which comes with a matching teaspoon) to your doorstep or Adagio Tea has this one. Plastic or metal works fine. The only factor to consider is the width of your mug. I have a wide-mouthed infuser for my extra-big mugs. If you like traditional teacups or regular size mugs, a smaller one is fine. Also, I have a thing against infuser balls because you have to open them up, put the tea in, and close them and sometimes they won’t close correctly and the loose tea escapes. Instead, I like the ones that sit at the top of the mug that you can power water through othem.

tea infuser from Adagio Teas

Image via Adagio tea

The teaspoon is to add the right amount of tea to the infuser. Smaller mugs use one teaspoon. Larger ones can use up to two teaspoons, depending on how concentrated you like your tea. There might be some trial and error there. (I add two teaspoons to my double-size mugs.)

Do not pour boiling water over the loose tea. It’ll burn the leaves and reduce the flavor. Instead, I catch the tea kettle just before boiling. Yes, you could microwave the water until it’s your desired temperature, then pour it over the leaves. But do not microwave water with tea leaves in the microwave. You’ll kill the flavor.

Let the tea steep from 3-5 minutes. Again, it depends on taste. Longer makes stronger tea.

I make tea every morning, so it’s routine and simple to me. I find the hardest thing is remembering how long I’ve steeped the tea. I use the stove timer to remind me, especially in the morning, when the kids can distract me.

If you use regular tea bags, skip all the steps except the not-boiling water part.

Then consume entire mug, get the caffeine jolt, and get to work.

In other news,

I went to a Nintendo press event last week and had my first glimpse of Carnegie Hall, which was right across the street.

Carnegie Hall from the Park Hyatt

Carnegie Hall–view across the street from the Park Hyatt Hotel. The Russian Tea Room is right next to it (though not in the photo). –photo by Corrina Lawson

For those still needing Mother’s Day gifts, check out my Wonder Woman gift guide. Want to see all my GeekMom and GeekDad posts? Check out the full page, which includes my thoughts on Nazi Captain America.

I also reviewed Tremontaine, set in Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint world. It is like a Regency Romance but 100 percent gayer and with more chocolate. 🙂

Up this week for me? Copy editing my first published story, an erotic fertility ritual involving Vikings. It’s currently called Freya’s Gift but I’m searching around for a new title. Sexytimes With Vikings doesn’t quite cover it.

I’ll also be writing a new project, the Princess in the Tower, a modern fantasy romance, longhand. Because if it’s one thing I geek out about more than tea, it’s journals.

Tentatively titled The Crystal Tower, the work on the Next Big Thing has begun. I’m using a notebook for the rough draft and so far, I’ve filled over 30 pages and that includes the ending.

It’s first person, urban fantasy.
First line: “In the Crystal Tower, I was born and died.”
Last line: “In the Crystal Tower, I died and was born.”


My favorite pin.

No, not pitching myself. I have my talented agent, Eric Ruben, and no new stories to work into a pitch. But the CT RWA chapter is holding a pitch fest as part of their monthly meeting and that kind of workshop always helps me focus my stories.

Plus, it’s a chance to wear my new t-shirt with the logo: “ACT III: They All Die.”

Which isn’t quite appropriate for a romance writer but definitely fits my mood everytime I hit Act II and get stuck. That’s when I remember my favorite pin and keep going.

I started watching this show because I pay attention to all things Romans these days. That’s because my book coming out next month, Dinah of Seneca, deals with alternate history Romans and I’m working on its sequel.  My world is not that close to the world of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, as Dinah is set in a world where Romans and Vikings have settled North America, but it does deal with similar elements of slavery, destiny and free will.

So to watch the first season of Spartacus was a real treat. And, yes, I’ve watched the finale  twice now.

The first time because I was on the edge of my seat to see what happened.

The second time to appreciate the smaller moments and the cleverness of the writers.


Overall, this was an *excellent* way to complete the plot and character arcs that have built over the season. It’s so good, it’s almost textbook and I’m going to have to remember it when I write the climax of Dinah’s sequel.

The parallels between Spartacus and Crixus were made crystal clear in the conversation between the two men. Both men were sold into slavery against their will. Both men drank the kool-aid about the glory of being a gladiator, both men lost the women they loved tragically. Both want to right this wrong.

Their conversation is just a wonderful end to the story arc about their rivalry. And I just loved the moment where Crixus helps Spartacus leap to his target. Beautiful choreography.

I also loved that Mira was allowed the choice of whether to take destiny into her own hands or not. Why does she love Spartacus? He’s someone honorable who actually sees her as a person. He saved her from rape. He didn’t want to use her as a prize for good behavior or to practice his sexual technique. When Spartacus finally made love to her, he did it because he liked her and wanted to please her.

He may not love her but it’s easy to see why Mira thought Spartacus worthy of her concern. And she’s had enough of being used like a toy by the Romans.

Spartacus himself seems to have regained his dignity and feeling of self-worth. He no longer believes because his wife is dead, he should be dead. He’s found purpose. Of course, his purpose is in killing them all…but still. 🙂

The brother gladiators had such a nice, tragic moment.

Asher and Doctore were a long-time coming. The writers let two of our villains live. I completely agree with one but I really wanted to see Asher dead, dead, dead.  Doctore deserved some satisfaction.

And other nice bit of writing: Batiatus suffers exactly the same loss as Spartacus did at the beginning of the series. Batiatus has lost his community, he’s lost his home, he’s lost his wife, and all his efforts to save them are to no avail against a superior foe. And I LOVE that the writers took Batiatus’ own words to Spartacus about fighting in the arena and had Spartacus say them to Batiatus before he killed him.

Just beautiful.

However, I heard through the grapevine that Lucy Lawless will be back next season–if there is a next season. Now, that’s a surprise. I thought her ending nicely done, especially with how Crixus finally stood up for himself against her. He has been repeatedly raped by this women. She’s taken away the person he loves most in the world. And she expected Crixus to love her?

I love the gender reversal in this.

Still, if Lucretia lives, she’ll get to take revenge on her former BFF. 🙂

I want more of this story. I don’t know when I’ll get it as Andy Whitfield, who plays Spartacus, is still being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I am guessing it is very serious. Get well, sir. You deserve to enjoy your success.

Note: I wrote this after the first season of Spartacus. All of the show is now available on Netflix. Go. Watch.

For those who’ve seen it already, I wrote a few more articles: Spartacus, Rome & Patriarchal Society, “Kill Them All, The Spartacus Finale,” and Six Ways Dinah of Seneca is Like Spartacus. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

In the case of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I want to explain to people who scoff about it being bloody porn why I love the show.

Oh, it has flaws. There’s dialogue that goes over the top–Jupiter’s cock!–scenery chewing acting, and bloody special effects that are so stylized that they’ve become silly. Oh, look! Entrails again!

I also have doubts of historical accuracy.

Yet I am incredibly hooked.

I am far more hooked on this show than on the Emmy-nominated True Blood, which shares more than few elements in common with Spartacus–especially the blood and sex part. But I find True Blood absolutely dumb–that includes both the characters and the plot. The premise is good. The writers just don’t do anything interesting with it.

Ostensibly, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the tale of the gladiator who led a famous slave rebellion against the Roman Republic. The show begins before our hero becomes that guy. He’s an unnamed Thracian warrior who joins the Roman legions and then rebels against his commander because, well, the Roman commander is an ass.

This is ends badly for our hero, as not only is he captured and sold into slavery, so is his beloved wife. The first two episodes are basically set up to Spartacus’ entering gladiator training.

But by episode three, interesting things start to happen with the writing.

Be warned, minor spoilers below. I’ve tried to be general but…

Plots and character arcs are put in motion, arcs that pay off magnificently by season’s end. Nothing at first is what is seems.

I think that’s the ultimate difference between True Blood and Spartacus.

They both have unpredictable plotting and “WTF?? happened” elements. But in True Blood, no one ever learns anything. It’s all character shuffling around. They never seem to grow. Or, as a friend put it, “stay tuned for next week, when Sookie does something stupid!”

In Spartacus, the characters change and grow. In some cases, they just end too. No one is safe and that adds to the unpredictability of the show.

For example: Batiatus, the Roman gladiator owner who buys Spartacus seems a decent enough sort for a Roman and I initially sympathized with him because of his obvious love for his wife and his burning desire to be recognized above his class.  He also seems honorable, giving Spartacus his word to reunite him with his wife.

Batiatus and Lucretia: Not the Perfect Roman Couple. Oh, did I mention Lucy Lawless is awesome in this?

By the next-to-last episode, it becomes clear that all the initial impressions about Batiatus are just plain wrong. He’s sneaky,  more than a little batshit crazy and gives us at least two “oh, no, I cannot believe he did that!” moments.

Crixus, who first appeared to be no more than a fellow gladiator determined to bully Spartacus, has turned into the most fascinating character on the show. He’s a brute, true, but he’s totally drunk the Kool-Aid about how honorable it is to be a gladiator, even the part about how his eventual death with bring glory to him.

That is, until it’s made clear that his life and the lives of those he loves are pawns in a game to entertain those lucky enough not to be slaves.

This point of being a plaything is driven home to Spartacus himself in the most heart-wrenching episode of the season. This death was pure tragedy and worked brilliantly. It was clear that this character was probably not destined for a good end but the way it happened was shocking.

In short, unpredictable plot turns plus awesome character arcs equals a show that I absolutely cannot miss.

I will, however, not deny that all the incredibly well-built handsome gladiators who strut around with little clothing doesn’t hurt its appeal. Neither does the occasional (but brief) full frontal nudity.

The husband says that all the naked women doesn’t hurt either. Lucy Lawless’ breasts, he says, are quite magnificent. I note that most of the naked women have breasts that lack implants. Perhaps because this isn’t a show produced in Hollywood.

There are also the orgies featuring simulated sex. (Well, I think it’s simulated…) But, the fascinating part for me is that the sex isn’t, well, sexy. It’s background noise.

It’s world-building.

Sex, especially with slaves, means little to any of the free Romans. It’s a commodity, just live the lives of the gladiators.

There are only five characters having sex on the show for love. And one of them is having sex with someone they love who doesn’t love them but has no choice in the matter. In other words, rape. The others, well, I doubt it’s going to end well.

What’s truly sexy on this show is the longing. The longing to matter. The longing for freedom. The longing for love without conditions.

The finale is on Friday night. I foresee a lot of blood being spilled. Or, as Spartacus said, there’s only one good plan left:

“Kill them all.”

Every now and then I need to play Stuart Smalley for myself and keep my spirits up about writing and, well, life.

This is my favorite pin. It was a gift from dear friend who’s no longer with us:

Cheerfully slogging our way to greatness.”

This is on a doily hand-made by my friend Katy Cooper which sits on my desk. It’s a cherry slogan, picked up from Jenny Crusie and the JenniferCrusieFans yahoo group some time back.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, anybody could do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

League of Their Own.

“You know, if you don’t want to run again, I respect that.  But if you don’t run ’cause you think it’s gonna be too hard or you think you’re gonna lose – well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.”

The West Wing.

“It’s an impossible job.”

“That happens sometimes.”

–Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

“Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.”

Bujold again, this time in A Civil Campaign

No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Eleanor Roosevelt.

And I can’t make a list like this without including something from the Princess Bride. I use this one when I’m having trouble figuring out exactly how to say something.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What are your favorites?

The show Mad Men is many things.

It’s intense, morbidly funny, sad, and intelligent.

What it’s never been is happy.

Which is why the ending to season three, which was so joyous I felt like dancing around the room, came as such as pleasant shock.

I’ve never thought Don Draper would end well. He’s a man literally pretending to be someone else. His career in advertising is built on telling other people untruths about products.

In short, his entire life is built on lies.

The fascination for me comes in watching him try to balance those lies with what he knows is the inner truth about himself. It’s not a balancing act I’ve ever thought he would win. But seeing him struggle is worth the price of admission.

Warning, spoilers behind the break.


I’ve heard all the criticism of James Cameron’s Avatar.

The plot is predictable.

The bad guys are two-dimensional.

Visual effects don’t substitute for story.

All this is true.

But Avatar isn’t simply a movie with great visuals that happens to be making a ton of money because people are shallow and love gimmicks.

Avatar is making a ton of money because it has incredible world building and audiences care about what happens to the characters.

In November, I attended an all day workshop given by screen writing teacher Michael Hauge. The workshop was an eye opener in a number of ways but the one lesson that keeps coming back to me is about how to get audiences to bond with characters.

One quick way is to create a sympathetic character. But that’s not always possible, especially if you’re writing a difficult character. The next way is to put the character in a sympathetic situation.

And look how Avatar starts….spoilers below the cut…. (more…)